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Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Poland for two-day visit

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 12.06.2013 17:00
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Poland, where he is having trade and diplomatic talks and opening an exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum.

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Donald Tusk in Warsaw, Wednesday: photo - PAP/Pawel Supernak

Netanyahu was greeted by his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking of the now annual meeting between Polish and Israeli ministers, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that “this is another meeting between our governments that shows Polish-Israeli relations are good and friendly, and that applies not only to the relationship between our governments but also between our people.

"The EU must act decisively to curb the threat of terrorism. Here, the state of Israel is, for the EU and Poland, a valuable and important partner,” Tusk added.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said it was his goal to achieve an historic compromise that will put an end to the conflict between Palestine and Israel once and for all.

"It will mean a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the state of Israel,” he told journalists.

"Israel is ready to accept direct negotiations without any preconditions. I am prepared for this and I think that the Palestinians are ready too,” he added.

The Israeli prime minister is being accompanied by a large delegation of business people and politicians, including ministers of strategic affairs, education, culture and sport and science and technology.

Poland is currently modernizing its armed forces and Israel is keen to continue to build on the export success of its arms industry.

Israeli arms exports rose by 20 percent - worth 5.3 billion euros - in 2012, according to the Haaretz newspaper, and the Israeli defence ministry said at the beginning of this year that it expects to see an increase in sales to Azerbaijan, Brazil, Poland and Vietnam in 2013.

On Thursday, the Israeli PM will be taking part in the reopening of an exhibition in 'Block 27' of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in southern Poland, after it was closed for several months due to renovation.

Joint press statement gaffe

Before arriving in Warsaw, Benjamin Netanyahu had insisted that a joint press statement, released on Tuesday, by both Polish and Israeli governments be withdrawn as passages were too conciliatory to Palestine, the PAP news agency reports.

The press statement said that Israel has a right to defend itself in the event of attack and that Palestinians had a right to a state. But what Netanyahu apparently refused to endorse to was a section in the statement that said, “unilateral steps by either side [Palestinian or Israeli] are not helpful for achieving a sustainable peace.”

This could be interpreted as criticism of Israeli settlements being built in Palestinian areas.

Poland's foreign minister Radek Sikorski said in Washington last week that "Poland doesn't, and need not, support everything Israel does to maintain its security, or its handling of Palestinian issues. We don't support the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories."

Netanyahu’s aides claimed that the PM did not see or approve the text before it was sent out in a press release, laying responsibility on the Israeli National Security Council, which prepared the proposed statement with its Polish counterpart, Israel Army Radio reports.

Besides the embarrassing retraction of a joint press release, the Israeli prime minister's visit to Poland comes amid a strike of Israeli foreign diplomats, who are refusing to take part in the planning of the trip due to an ongoing industrial dispute over pay and conditions.

Israeli foreign ministry trade unions say that Netanyahu was attempting to break the strike by using the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to take care of security during the trip and not diplomatic staff as is usual. (pg)

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